Saturday, September 3, 2011
I have come home! My neighbor Anne came over with my extra keys, and snapped this picture of the two of us at the threshold.
Etta dashed out of the car, ran right to the correct outside door, and sniffed around. I don’t think she believed we’d ever return.
I am thankful for little things today, like the immaculate refrigerator scrubbed and cleaned by my summer student tenant, and my humble, sturdy bed. What a joy to find the place in tip-top shape.
Etta and I woke this morning to a misty pink sunrise over our Asheville campsite on the French Broad River. No problem finding a café with hearty roasted coffee in this artsy town. By noon we were on the last leg of our circumnavigation of the USA, heading home. The heat and humidity on the road cranked up to the 90’s by early afternoon. I’m in the deep south when the ice cubes in the six-pack cooler melt in a couple of hours.
South Carolina greeted us with red clay hills, fireworks for sale, peaches and hot boiled peanuts, the Stars and Bars, deep fried funnel cakes and snicker bars, BBQ ribs, big Baptist churches with parking lots in front mall-style, Dixie Republic tourist shop, a University of Georgia bulldog football pickup at a rest stop on i-85, and the first road sign for Atlanta.
Welcome to Georgia. Thanks to everyone who called me on the road, or made a comment to the blog, or sent me an email in response. Thanks, Susie for helping me unpack my car. Glad to be home near my Georgia family and circle of friends.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Etta and I are at our last campsite on this Grand Roadtrip Across America. I’ve pitched the tent tonight along the banks of the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina. Water level is low–dry and dusty on shore.
The little red Scion tobogganed her way down i-64 West and 77 South, slaloming us around the green domed mountains, and pleated valleys of West Virginia. Cousin Julie calls the landscape there a series of bulbous megaliths as far as the eye can see.
The highway went up and down. We banked at the curves, accelerated and descended in sharp, drawn out, twisty drops. The road was a story of gravity won and lost and won again. I did not push my trusty red toaster-car. As the going got tough, I let her fall back to her natural mph for the incline. Her heart is strong and I’m in no rush.
Virginia greeted us again as we crossed her southwestern finger that slides between WVA and the corner of Tennessee, and tickles Kentucky on its eastern side.
We bored through solid rock at Big Walker Mountain Tunnel and the East River Mountain Tunnel.
Cascades of Virginia kudzu draped down from the bones of roadside trees cannibalized by this voracious non-native southern weed.
Tennessee welcomed us, and so did North Carolina further down the road. Etta and I were treated again and again to sweeping vistas, and layers of blue misty mountains, like promised lands beyond the horizon.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Meet Trolley and Beauty–rescue greyhounds, trying to get to know Miss Etta James, who is sniffing their turf, ignoring them. We have arrived at the home of my cousin Julie and husband Jay Margolis, nestled in the hills above Charleston, West Virginia. The air is hot and muggy. Temperatures were in the 90s today. The dogs, by the way, are getting along famously. Etta darts around their long legs, and has commandeered Trolley’s green blanket as a munching station for a gift of a rawhide chew.
And meet Julie and Jay with me in the middle, clustered around a colorful dinner table setting. That’s green tomato gazpacho soup in our bowls. Chef Jay created a hearty tossed salad with apples and bounty from the garden, red bean burritos with guacamole and salsa, corn on the cob and Chardonnay from Otter Creek Vineyard in Brandon, Vermont. I am blessed to receive such loving food, and to connect with my relatives over a home-cooked meal.
Etta James and I departed our Virginia campsite earlier in the day mid-morning-ish, heading south and west. We picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway almost immediately, cruising its sharp turns and switchbacks at 35 miles per hour or less. Like the Pacific Coast Highway, this two-lane scenic parkway requires a slow ride. She paid us back in layered mountain overlooks, and distant vistas fading into misty blue. She’s an aging beauty of a highway, crumbling at the shoulders, sparsely traveled in this area.
We made our way to I-64, an engineering wonder cut through the Virginia and West Virginia Appalachians. The little red toaster Scion huffed over steep mountain ascents, and braced herself for twisting multi-mile drops at 6-7% grades. Semis roared past on the downside. We overtook them on the uptake.
West Virginia in her wildness welcomed us across the mountains.
I made a detour earlier, at the Covington Virginia exit, to take pictures for my friend Mitch Lindsey of the neighborhood where he grew up in the 70’s. He was curious about his former home, the Jackson River and the cave he cautiously explored as a kid. Here they are today. Donnie Bowker owns the place now. He was outside doing yardwork when I pulled alongside the curb, but demurred when I asked to take his picture. Thank you, Mitch for consistently calling me throughout this journey to check in, and see how I was doing, and where I was at that moment. His was a welcome voice in the deserts of the southwest, and along the northwestern wilderness roads.